When Jean Morgan watches the Academy Awards tonight, she’ll be rooting for Sweetcakes to win the Oscar for actress in a leading role.
To the rest of the world, Sweetcakes is Emma Stone, up for her role in “La La Land.”
Morgan is Stone’s grandmother.
“I always called her Sweetcakes,” says Morgan, who lives at Willow Valley Communities with her husband, Bob. The couple will host a viewing party for all the residents in their building to watch the ceremony, beginning at 8:30 on ABC.
“Nobody else could be called Sweetcakes,” Morgan recalls. “That was her name and only hers. The grand kids all call me Neanie.”
While Morgan is proud of all her grandchildren, she says Emma always had a deep passion for acting .
When she was just 15, Stone told her parents she wanted to move to Hollywood to start her career. Her parents said OK, as long as her mother, Krista (one of Morgan’s three children), went with her.
“You could see the passion in her,” Morgan says. “Between us, Bob and I have 10 grandchildren and I can’t see another one of them leaving home at 15. But she’s so grounded. She can see past the smoke and mirrors of fame.”
And, Morgan says, she’s been an old soul all her life.
“For her 18th birthday, we had a surprise party for her in downtown Phoenix at a silent movie theater,” Morgan says. “We saw a Charlie Chaplin movie. She always liked Chaplin.”
Morgan says her granddaughter, who’s real name is Emily Jean, was always a performer, from day one.
“She was always in your face. She danced, she sang. She was very precocious — extremely precocious,” Morgan says with a laugh. “She performed for us always.”
And her younger brother, Spencer, was part of the action. You couldn’t say no to Emily.
When Stone was 8, her mother, took her to New York to see “Annie.”
“We were living in Reading at the time and she came to see us and performed the whole play for us,” Morgan recalls. “Her seat mate told my daughter Krista she had never seen someone her age be so mesmerized by a show.”
Stone was always watching and learning.
“Theater was her life; she didn’t have time for school, though she’s very bright and always did well. She was homeschooled,” Morgan says. “She was a voracious reader and was either at the theater or losing herself in her books.”
But her granddaughter was always sensible about her chosen career, Morgan says.
“I asked her at one time, ‘Will you make it?’ and she said, ‘Probably not. Only 2 percent do.’ She was always grounded. She could take rejection.”
Stone’s career took a while to take off. That is chronicled in “La La Land,” in which her character, an actress named Mia, struggles to get roles and be treated with a little dignity.
“A lot of the film parallels her life,” Morgan says. Heart and soul, she really is Mia in ‘La La Land.’ ”
Stone’s big break came in 2010 with “Easy A,” a comedy about a high school innocent who pretends she’s leading a wild life to be more popular in school.
But Stone’s mother was diagnosed with cancer just as work began on the movie. (Six years later, she is cancer-free.)
Stone wanted to be with her mother, but Morgan notes that Krista insisted she stay with the film.
“That was a really tough time,” Morgan says. “She’s very close to her mother and to her brother, Spencer. He’s been her date for all the award shows. ”
It’s been a busy award season for Stone, who has won a Golden Globe, Screen Actors Guild award and a BAFTA (the British Oscars).
Stone earned the role of Mia after director Damien Chazelle saw her perform in “Cabaret” on Broadway.
Stone grew up in Scottsdale, Arizona, and Morgan has lived on the East Coast, including Delaware, North Carolina and Wilmington. Widowed when she was only 49, she had to work.
After her daughter moved to Arizona, Morgan tried to visit as often as she could.
“I’d stay for two weeks or so,” she says. “I had this English teapot, and the children and I would have tea. Then, when Spencer got older, he and Bob would wait on us. We’d go on pretend trips while we were having our tea.”
She also let the young Stone in her makeup.
“I told her she must be responsible and she’d say, ‘Of course Neanie, I will be responsible.’ And, of course, she was.”
Morgan notes that Stone inherited her grandfather’s eyes.
“Nobody else in the family has those eyes,” she says with a smile. “Those are Don Yeager’s eyes.”
She’s been married to her second husband, a Reading native, since 1999.
They’ve lived at Willow Valley for about six years
About four years ago, Stone visited Willow Valley and they held a reception for her. When she visits these days, she stays low key, but Morgan notes with a laugh that everyone knows who she is these days.
And how does Morgan feel about seeing Sweetcakes on the big screen?
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SOURCE: Lancaster Online, by